The importance of punctuation is shown in the following examples:
(These are from secondary sources.)
‘Mrs. and Miss — have left off clothing of every description. An inspection invited.’
Of course the object was to inform the public that the ladies in question dealt in second hand apparel.
“A respectable young woman wants washing.”
“Wanted. – A sorrel colt, suitable for a young lady with a long tail.”
“Wanted – A man and his wife to look after a farm, and a dairy with a religious turn of mind without encumbrance.”
Wagga Wagga Advertiser (NSW : 1875 – 1910), 10 March 1891, p. 4
A slightly different account of an above item:
“Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Levi, having cast off clothing of every description, invite an early inspection.”
The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), 5 May 1896, p. 1
In an account of the toasts at a public dinner the sentiment — “Woman — without her, man is a brute,” was printed — “Woman, without her man, is a brute.”
The Areas’ Express (Booyoolee, SA : 1877 – 1948), 18 May 1886, p. 3
Some years ago it is reported, the blunder of an American clerk in putting a comma in the place of a hyphen cost the United States nearly £500,000. An import duty was to be put on certain goods, while others were to be allowed in free, including “all foreign fruit plants,” meaning young fruit trees for planting. In copying this part of the Bill for Congress the clerk made it read “all foreign fruit, plants,” and so on. The result was that for a year, until Congress set the mistake right, all kinds of fruit were allowed into the United States free of duty.
Gippsland Times (Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 30 May 1927, p. 3